Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Andrew Stanton Interview

Notes I took while listening to Jeff Goldsmith does an interview with Andrew Stanton director of Wall-E

the 9 old men weren't at cal arts, but the guys who were right under them, the invisible 12 old men, were there.

I was always interested in the whole thing, the lets put on a show, not knowing that that is what the director does, which of course gave me a bad portfolio.

Roger Rabbit and Little Mermaid were the turn of animation back to life. If you weren't working for Disney you would work 3 months here and 3 months there with a lot of breaks in between.

When Pixar started we were young and naive and doing what we were told. We were told to make it edgier, Edgier, EDGIER to the point where we couldn't recognize it. So at one point we holed up for 3 weeks and turned off the phones and wrote the film we wanted following our gut.

Joss Whedon is what taught them what a good script looks like and Buffy the movie is a great example of a good script poorly made, when you read his scripts you can see the movie in your mind.

Toy Story 2 was redone almost from scratch in 8 months. Andrew wrote it in 3 months (and the other film had taken 3 years to write) most of your time may feel like it's spent on plot, but really it's spent on making the character's dimensional and interesting, so since the characters were already defined it was easy "Buzz and Woody stuck in the desert have to sell lemonade" and you already have something to go with knowing what the characters are like. The big thing that I added to Monsters is rules to the world, ie. that screams power everything etc.

Once I realized that Dory was a surrogate for Nemo, it allowed a proxy for Father to be working with his overprotectiveness throughout the film.

Pixar is nothing but Type A's, Olympic athletes, they can't help themselves from topping themselves and then trying to out do the person next to them. So we try to make it fun to try and counterbalance so people don't work themselves to nothing. It takes it's toll, you love it so much, it's like you're having an affair, it can consume your every waking thought, you are still there when you are home with your family.

Wall-E was hatched when he was stuck on Nemo, writers block, so he freed his mind up by playing with Wall-E.

They had had the idea for Wall-E (a little robot working away by himself pointlessly) way back during Toy Story. But by the time Andrew got to it he had the experience to see what the hook was, what made that idea strong, Wall-e was the epitome of loneliness and futility and thinking "there must be something more", which we can all relate to, and the opposite of loneliness is a love story, which organically stuck the two genre's together love story and sci-fi.

There was something about Luxo that inherently is anthropomorphic, you just can't help but project ideas onto it, you can't stop yourself from empathising with it, kind of like a baby or a pet "oh it likes me, it wants to come home with me" so going for that feeling with Wall-e throughout the film.

Andrew pretty much Beat outlines the story before bringing in a co-writer. When you see a good movie and you walk out, if you really liked it and you start telling someone about it, even if you're a bad storyteller, it still comes across, so if you have the bones true, it'll come across in the pitch. So the outline is as if I had scene it and was telling you about it. I know it'll change, I'm probably sitting on broken bones that I don't know about yet, but it should come across as a movie I just saw instead of what I'm gonna make. I work best with someone else to work with, bounce ideas off of. So talking in a room until we're both saying "yeah yeah yeah, and then this and this" finishing each others sentences, then Jim will go off and write the first volley of what he thinks we talked about, then I'm a better reactionary person, I need something to look at to see how it can be improved. The concept that nothing is truly written, only rewritten.

You discover the story, you just uncover it, like an archeologist. It's like you say the idea of what we want to make is in the ground here, I think it's a T-rex but I'm not sure, so were gonna start digging here, but you have no control of what bones will come up first or if you'll be able to identify them, to think you do is a waste of time. What you can control is how fast you dig, how quick you get them up. Just start digging. You put all the bones together "okay there's my tyranosaurus rex" but if at the 11th hour you pull out a bone that doesn't match any of your plans and you realize that your head bone was your tail bone and you've gotta switch, are you going to have the intestinal fortitude to admit that you have actually a stegasaurus and not a T-Rex. This is where Pixar rocks, we don't have brilliant ideas, but we do a good job of noticing when we have the wrong dinosaur and busting our ass to make it work right for the actual dinosaur we have.

Once he figured out that Wall-e was the keeper of the flame of what life is about, it made it easy because Wall-e doesn't change but changes everyone else around him.

writer's block, it's all about mind games for finding a way objectiviey, looking at your stuff like it wasn't you who wrote it. The word processor gave me the guts to just spit out my ideas and not worry about the words or grammar being write, it feels more like sculpting.

know the punch line to your own joke, know the ending. The first act of Wall-e actually fell from the heavens into my lap, but once I had figured out the climax I did do the hard work of going back and changing whatever I needed to change in the first act to make it all seamless.

I had been watching a lot of Gus Van Sant movies, I was charmed by how they used focus in Finding Forrester. Almost everything would be out of focus and there'd be 4 kids at a table talking, but there was a subtle shift in focus to who was talking, shift to the front plane of their face, helping you focus where you needed to in the chaos of a highschool background. It's all about simplicity, artificial rules that mimic the rules of real life, only the light that exists in a scene don't just throw light everywhere, only where a camera man could fit, what the muscle inertia of lifting a camera would look like, so that the film feels more comfortable and real and the audience can get just a little deeper into it.

I'll get it right the 6th or 7th or 8th time, not 1st 2nd or 3rd, so don't be to worried about the early drafts.

1 comment:

jriggity said...

awesome advice!